Getting to Know You

Most people don't know who A.G. Lafley is. But if you know Proctor and Gamble, you do. P&G is the more common term for the company. P&G was struggling when Lafley took over the company in 2000.

Today P&G thrives. What happened? What did the CEO do?

If you know Lafley, or heard of his leadership style, you know then that this man is driven. He is a "people person." But unlike most press-driven leaders, he is humble, and put his people and customers first.

What Did P&G Do?
Simply, they placed the customer in the center of everything they did. Does this sound "old" and "trite?" Perhaps. But perhaps this works.

Have you noticed the day of the 1990's bellow for "customer services" basically is non-existent today? That we are served by surly waiters, check-out people, flight attendants and sales people? Do you notice that we are made to feel that they are actually doing us a favor?

This is today's opportunity. If our customer service sucks, and customers are not happy with the rude treatment, maybe this is an opportunity for us to leverage for an advantage.

That's what P&G did. P&G focused on two touch points with their customer base. First was when they bought the product. And second, when they used the product. These were the moments of truth. And their goal was to "delight" the customer at those two touch points.

What Can We Learn?
Our business is vastly different than a consumer based company. Yes? Of course. But what if you and your team focused on the same two touch points with your customers and clients? What if you focused on delighting the client at the point of the sale and at the time of delivery?

"We do this already," you say. But how often do you and your team, work closely with the customer up front in the sale, only to have a disconnect in the delivery of your services? The up front part of the sale, the pre-sale, is as critical to customer satisfaction as the delivery is. Now clients will not agree with this statement, because logically this is hard to grasp.

But the simple truth is expectation setting is done up front and expectations are not met when the delivery of services occurs, creating the "expectations gap." Here are two areas that may help bridge the gap;
  1. Often we tell the client what they are going to receive in the delivery of services, but what we don't do is things like tell them what they won't get in the delivery. If we can draw up services that won't be delivered, but show these services as options, or separate smalled projects now, we avoid the unintended consequences of my expectations and what "I thought I heard" versus what you actually intended and thought you stated. Also, this lays out follow-on projects upfront and provides a potential path for longer repeat business opportunities.
  2. Also, creativity is performed, believe it or not, often more times in the steps leading up to the sale - before the deal is closed. And the excitement generated prior to delivery is never captured for the people responsible for getting the job done. The delivery people are too focused on closing out the project. So, innovation becomes a secondary matter, if it is considered at all.
  3. Back to "Getting to Know You." Most of the relationship building is done up front - the pre-sale again. The people who are delivering are not good at "getting to know you" and "keeping that relationship." They are for the most part engineers who prefer dealing with numbers, or paper, or words. The love goes out of the sale, the passion leaves just after the contract when the delivery team walks on-site. Their rallying cry is, "Get it done." That's their passion. Keeping a key person who was up front in the sale, continuously involved in the delivery is a key point that can make all the difference in the world to your business and client satisfaction.

This little piece of advice, if done well and professionally will identify gaps in expectations between you and your clients. And perhaps improve the way you do business. And provide a road map for future follow-on business.

The bottom line: Focus on delighting your clients, by starting up-front prior to the sale and after the sale when it's time to deliver.

The 70/30 Rule To Client Relationships

"Listening, not talking is key to selling high value professional services and solutions," according to Joe Murphy, the professional sales force and turn around consultant. Maybe you've heard this quote, "God gave man two ears and one mouth, and he is supposed to use them in that proportion."

The best people who consult and sell practice what is called the "70/30 rule." This rule says you should talk only 30 percent and listen 70 percent. Most people make the fatal mistake in selling believing that selling is really about being a good talker. People who believe this are usually not very successful, a little arrogant and probably not very good learners. They think they should talk the client to death. You have even heard people say, "You have the 'gift of the gab' and therefore you should be in sales. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Using your ears and mouth in this ratio is one of the vital key to sales success, in almost any profession. In fact, when you think about it, the ability to listen well is indispensable in developing high quality relationships.

One of the keys to developing the "70/30" habit is to focus "On the Other Person." This mean that you need to become "other-centered." This means be interested in others, instead of trying to become interesting.

Here are two great ways to do this;
  1. Put an imaginary spotlight on the other person. Think of the person on a stage and the spotlight is on them.
  2. This one is key; ask great questions. One of the best skills you can develop is to ask great questions of the other person. When you do this, you cannot help but to get the other person to talk about their needs, their problems, and how they want to be helped.

Good luck.

Branding Your Work

Branding as a consultant, or an attorney or lobbyist or a highly paid executive, is about getting to be known, how you wish to be known. This is both art and science. It requires finesse, and a process of thinking and implementing. But it all starts with your intense desire to be recognized and then your ability to sit down and think about two questions;
  1. What characteristics do you value? What is important to you?
  2. What characteristics are important to your clients? What is important to them?

When you think about these two points of view, you will gain an understanding of perhaps why you are not known, or why you are an "also ran."

In reality, these two questions are very simple questions or seem to be. But hardly anyone, except the best, ever asks these questions of themselves.

However, you must.

Take out a sheet of paper and write down the characteristics of #1 today. Write them out on a sheet of paper. Not on the computer/laptop. On paper. This is key and is critical to stimulating your thinking. Go to Starbucks or McDonalds to do this. And do it early in the morning. Go to someplace where you can be alone! (i.e. not interrupted).

Your list today may look like this:

  1. I want to be known as; honest
  2. I want to be known as; hardwarking
  3. I want to be known as; smart
  4. I want to be known as; On top of my game.
  5. I want to be known as; Easy to do business with.
  6. I want to be known as; Positive
  7. Etc.

You get the picture here? Good. Now go do it. Tomorrow, we will cover this again. Because these two questions are not as easy as you think they might be!

Read and Send Articles to Clients

You have to read a lot to stay at the top of your game. It is a must. From this day forward, I want you to consider reading material from two vantage points. First, staying at the top of your field and knowing what trends and issues are developing in your marketplace.

The second perspective is this: read material with an eye toward how the material will help your clients and prospects. Then, when you are completed reading and making notes, or tear out these pages from the magazines or journals and make copies of them and the and send them to your clients and prospects. If you are reading these online, send the link with a note highlighting certain aspects of the article.

You will be amazed at two things that happen. First, you are forcing yourself to see things from the client's perspective. Seeing things from the client's perspective is a skill we need to hone every single day. Nothing else matters other than how our clients are doing and how they think they know us. This leads to the second amazing thing that will happen. And that is this: Your clients will be absolutely astonished that you think about them and their well-being. So many times, clients become jaundiced, because whenever you seem to show up is around the time when they have a need or a problem and when they have money to spend to fix the problem and address their need. (This of course better be true to some extent by the way!!!)

But through reading and taking notes, and sending these articles and notes to your clients, you will be seen differently than your competitors. This little act separates you from the pack. It identifies you as someone who is staying at the top of their game AND thinking about your clients and prospects in a completely different manner.

So, cull your reading material for information that is of interest to a current client, previous clients and prospective clients. Send the information so the article or report or whatever it is, lands on the desks by Tuesday or Wednesday. Or in that next meeting about the status of your current project, you can turn a dull dried out meeting into something different. By bringing the information to them, you are letting them know that you thought it would be of interest to them and their particular responsibilities and you care about their success. You will reinforce that you have their interests in mind. And it is yet another way to stay "top of mind" with them.

Good Luck - Joe

Think of Your Clients By Listening

While in a client engagement, try to listen to the people you work with. I mean really listen. The amount of information you can pick up about a person can be astounding.

When I say this and tell you what will help you, don't read this with a cynical eye. It's not just about getting more business. It's about developing and maintaining relationships. And through developing and maintaining relationships, our jobs become easier because their is a sense of comraderie and frankly, fun, because of the trust we have built.

So, when you are in a client meeting on Monday, and everyone goes around the conference room table talking about the weekend, you may hear things like; "I took our son to a ______." It may be to a hockey game or to the orthodontist. Or you will hear, "My daughter and I went to the ______." It may be to a play or to Barnes and Noble for a book report.

You will immediately start hearing some things that matter to the people you work with. Things that are important to them, personally. You may just want to consider asking them next Monday, if the book report or hockey game turned out well. Or sending them information that you may have that your daughter has, because she wrote something about that book last year.

Even better, when the conversation turns to business, you will hear around the table things people are struggling with in terms of the a project, a person, a department or a customer. Think about how you might be able to help them because of your experience or something you have found.

How you offer help will endear you or make you untrustworthy. If you are insincere, people will see you as sneaky. If you are sincere, and offer the information up - just like a balloon in the air, and not push it, after the meeting one-on-one, in person or later over the phone, you will really build the trust and relationship network.

We are all people. We have personal and professional lives. And as much as we really believe we can keep the two separate - we really can't.

Next time, listen. Stop your mind from racing and listen to what interests others or what they are struggling with. Offering up some reading material or a website may go a long way in cementing a relationship and building the trust you need to do well in your assignments.

One more thing. The approach I mention above - pointing out material that is not yours - is better then providing advice. Advice can be a form of judgement. And this might be taken as a put-down.

Consultants' Conflict - When To Avoid Conflicts and Addressing Problems

Whenever we deal with people there will be conflict. No one is perfect and no matter how "rational" business is supposed to be, it is very emotional. Why? Because we pore our heart and souls into our work. And anyone who tells you otherwise is not in touch with reality or someone you don't want on your team or working for you.

There are many times when you want to avoid conflict. And they deal with your emotions and the other party's emotions. You never want to sweep conflict under the rug. You have to address it. And the rule of thumb is; to address sooner, rather than later.

So when do you avoid conflict? Here are some guidelines:

  1. When you are pissed off. Goes without saying doesn't it? But this is usually when we hit conflicts head on. This absolutely the wrong time to do this however, and we all know it.
  2. When we have had little sleep. Our jobs sometimes require us to be up late at night and early in the morning. But sleep deprivation is a huge issue today and it makes us do things we normally would not do. In fact, it is directly related to #1 above. Little sleep, allows us to slip into anger very quickly.
  3. When there are multiple parties in the room. Depending on the situation, the rule of thumb should be to take it off line. This allows you the ability to be direct and not look like you are showing off for the others in the room.
  4. When you are not prepared. Preparation not to allow the conversation to get into a "he said, she said" situation. Preparation means having the facts, and having a game plan to disengage.
  5. When the other party is any of the above. Give them notice. Allow them to prepare too. This is not a "I win" and "I take the spoils" discussion. Know your aim. What do you want to have happen? What is your goal? Give the other party a chance to talk and defend and explain. Be open. Your perception can be totally off base. Preparation is the key for this.
  6. Over email. Never address things over email. Email sucks.
  7. Without consideration of the question; "How important is this?" Go after big things. Little things can be secondary.

Conflict avoidance is not conducive to a good working environment. But there are some people who stink at addressing conflict and see it as an emotional affront to their professionalism. In fact, some people may hide behind a statement of "this is unprofessional" which is usually a cloak to hide behind and not wanting to address the real issue whereby they do have something to hide.

Consultants - Client Conflicts - Deal With Them Immediately

No matter what the project, there will always be a client conflict. It may be unstated, but somewhere a long the line, you will run into a problem. It can be a minor issue, or a major issue. And almost invariably, the problem will take a turn toward a human conflict.

In all conflicts, deal with them immediately and unemotionally. Deal with them as you perceive it, and state it as such. Say, "It is my perception that this is a problem." Try not to make it personal. Try to leave room for the person to save face. Taking responsibility for the problem by stating it as "your perception" may deflate the conflict and allow for a discussion.

State clearly the ramifications of the problem and how it impacts business. Carefully consider doing this even if the problems were all or partially the client's doings , but remember the customer is always right.

Again, you will reinforce professionalism by hitting it head-on and unemotionally. It will show that you are interested in doing the job right. It will show that it is not just about making money for you. And that you give clients more than their money's worth.

Never Talk Out of School

Never talk out of school. Never discuss a past client's situation or staff. Never discuss the exact nature of a specific client's problem. And of course never, ever discuss previous assignments in terms of how bad that particular client was or how ignorant you thought they were. It does not matter whether you never mention the client's name or not.

As soon as you begin to "bad mouth" others for whom you have worked with, a client will see you as a danger to his organization. He will see you do not exercise discretion. And this may impact his organization or the people within it negatively.

As soon as you speak negatively, or say something that you may think is humorous at the previous client's expense, this present client immediately puts his name in place of the client you are referring to. And they say to themselves, "What if he starts talking about us (or me) in this manner?"

You will soon find yourself out of a project, a project that gets scoped down in size, or no follow-on work.

But since you are a professional, you already know this. But we can all use helpful reminding.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner